Book Review :: The Obesity Code

Review of The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, M.D.

This is a first. In almost 15 years of book blogging, I’ve never reviewed a book about weight loss. That’s not because I haven’t read any. Name a diet, and I’ve done it. Probably more than once. Basically, all of my adult life I’ve either been about to start a diet, on a diet, or crashing a diet. I turned 50 last year, which means I’ve been dieting for nearly 40 years.

Review of The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, M.D.

So an all-too-familiar scene is set. I’m about to once again (for the trillionth time) start “something” new to jump-start my weight loss when I run into a colleague who has recently lost a good bit of weight. We start a conversation, and The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, M.D., is one of two books she recommends. (The other was Eat to Beat Your Diet. I read it, too, and would also recommend.) But The Obesity Code was enlightening and motivating in a way that no other diet book has ever been before.

Currently, diabetes drugs for weight loss are all the rage. More effective than traditional “diet pills”, they seem to address the underlying cause of obesity and offer more weight loss than the typical “eat less, move more” dieting theories. But they can be expensive and physicians warn that the weight will return when you stop the medication.

Weight Loss Isn’t a Problem of Calories

The underlying thesis of The Obesity Code (Fung is a nephrologist and – according to his bio – “one of the world’s leading experts on fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal”) is that obesity isn’t a calorie issue; it’s a hormone issue. More specifically, it is an insulin issue. According to Fung, people who are overweight typically have more sustained periods of insulin spikes and increased insulin resistance. To fight obesity and achieve long-term weight loss, you need to shorten periods of insulin spikes which in turn fights insulin resistance.

Paraphrasing from the book: Insulin resistance is what creates your body’s “set weight.” If unaddressed, that weight will gradually go up 1-2 lbs. a year. For those of us who are chronic dieters, we know that there’s a weight that our body seems to always want to get back to. You can reset this weight lower when you address your body’s insulin resistance.

The latest diabetes drugs address this core issue of obesity with injections that lead to weight loss. The Obesity Code teaches you how to use what you eat and more importantly when you eat, to get similar results. This is achieved with intermittent fasting.

The Weight Loss Journey

The irony here is that I’ve done “intermittent fasting” off and on for several years. But intermittent fasting is not about calorie reduction. Without understanding the how or why of intermittent fasting, I’ve been doing little things that undermine its good.

Related to this, Fung debunks much of what we believe to be true about food and diets. Things like “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and “the key to weight loss is eating six small meals a day.” He explains the unproven rationale and at times the politics behind these myths.

Fung doesn’t knock all the other diets that are out there. He just explains how they are only part of the solution. He purports that many diets can work for a short time; the issue is that they are typically ineffective long term. And he is not advocating that you can eat whatever you want when you are eating. But he does point out that nearly every culture and every religion acknowledges a pattern of feasting and fasting. The key is that they go together.

For me, the principles in The Obesity Code fit the old saying that “the only diet that works is the one you can keep.” In essence, can this be a lifestyle change? For me, what to eat is very sensible. Why to eat (or not) also makes a ton of sense. And when to eat – for me – is very doable. So yes, I think I can make this a lifestyle.

Wish me luck! And, if you happen to be on the journey, let me know.


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